Reading one of the giants of science or of literature is considerably different than reading about them. I found that out long ago by reading Cervantes’ Don Quixote. It is an immensely enjoyable book, filled with quirky humour and sly digs at the foibles of mankind, far different than the stuffy image of ‘classic’ that it is burdened with. The same is true of Darwin. His book was a great joy to read, and I took my own sweet time, savouring every tasty morsel.
He immediately destroyed one of my preconceptions about the limitations of his scientific education – he trained as a clergyman – by demonstrating his meticulous attention to detail. The man was a consummate naturalist, leaving not the tiniest stone unturned in his pursuit of gathering the minutiae of observation. If anyone was qualified to write such a book as Origin, it was Darwin, and evolutionists are quite right to place so much faith in his work and call him a giant in his field. The man had impressive scope, not only of biology, but of geology as well; he was a true Renaissance intellect.
Secondly I was impressed with the genial and generous nature of the man. In one section he deals with the objections to his theory by another naturalist in agonizing detail, pouring over what amounted to little less than slanderous accusations. And yet he had the grace and good nature to thank the man, and pour praise upon the other’s fearless questioning of Darwin’s theory, holding his adversary’s questioning up as an example to others of the thoroughness with which they must answer every criticism, and being fair-minded enough to assert that such discussion was good for science!
This attitude he extended to his friends and allies as well, being careful to give credit to Wallace, Lyell, Asa Gray and a host of others for their contributions, and acknowledging the greater expertise of some of his colleagues to whom he looked for advice and assistance. Would the Stanley Millers and Richard Dawkins of today take a look not just at the arguments of Darwin, but his approach as well. To listen or read Darwinians now is to be subject to the most infantile arrogance and insufferable intellectual conceit. Darwin displayed none of that in his book, but only the most courteous discourse and reasonable debate. I would love to have sat down and talked to the man.
I could extol further virtues, but let me conclude with this: nowhere in Origin does Darwin deny the existence of God. This one fact alone made the reading of this book valuable to my understanding of the man. He may have questioned the common interpretation of Genesis (a literal rather than a literary one than uses metaphor and symbol to convey spiritual truth, just as Christ did in His parables), but he doesn’t dethrone God. Rather, like Newton before him, he seeks to “think God’s thoughts after Him.”
For Darwin it was no less honouring to God to believe that He had created all things by the process of evolution than to believe He did it by divine fiat. Darwin writes at the conclusion of his impressive work “When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was first deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator.” (506 in Signet Classics, italics mine).
What evolutionists have done to Darwin’s thorough and respectful examination of the Creator’s handiwork amounts to a wholesale hijacking of the reputation of a great scientist. Darwin is not the poster boy of the anti-God brigade he is made out to be by the narrow-minded atheists in the popular press. He was a thoughtful and fair-minded naturalist who painstakingly examined the evidence regarding the way God created the inhabitants of the earth, and respected the views of those who disagreed with him.
I encourage those who have long been leery of reading Darwin because of how he is portrayed in the public media to give the man the benefit of an honest appraisal by reading him yourself. You will not agree with everything he says; I do not. Science marches on. The development of probability and information theory, the discovery of the ‘irreducible complexity’ of the cell, examined by Michael Behe in his groundbreaking book Darwin’s Black Box, and the increasing importance of the anthropic principle that underlies modern cosmology, explored in the 2002 blockbuster Rare Earth, among many others, now calls into serious question some of Darwin’s basic assumptions. But the man has suffered from unnecessary caricature, not only from evolutionists, who should know better, but also from Christians, who should behave better. Darwin deserves greater respect.